Hart Is Ready To Contribute

When the Jacksonville Jaguars selected Larry Hart with their first of two fifth-round draft picks, few fans knew much about the undersized defensive end. This was on par with the rest of the Jaguars draft, as it was solely based on improving the pass rush, and they avoided big names from local schools.

Hart, the former Central Arkansas Bear doesn't look like the typical 4-3 defensive end as he stands just 6'0" tall and weighs in at a shade under 250 lbs. Why would a team that's supposedly committed to the 4-3 defensive alignment select another undersized pass rusher from a non Division I school?

Jaguars defensive line coach Joe Cullen helped answer that question.

"One of the things you look for and the qualities you want in a defensive lineman we have always felt is a motor, a relentless motor," Cullen said. "The guys we chose all have that trait."

In two seasons at Central Arkansas, Hart recorded 21.5 sacks and 31.5 tackles for loss earning him a pair of Southland Conference defensive player of the year awards.

"Larry Hart, other than the top three pass rushers (Brandon Graham, Jason Pierre-Paul, Derrick Morgan), to me we felt like that was the next best pure pass rusher in the draft," Cullen explained. "He lined up on either side. He can beat you with speed. He can transfer speed to power. He has exceptional strength and explosion to his lower body."

So why did Larry Hart last until the fifth round?

"Well you have to look at where he was at," the Jaguars defensive line coach explained. "Central Arkansas is an upstart Division II school going to I-AA."

Larry Hart was unsure of where he would go on draft day and he explained the waiting process.

"It was tough," Hart told JagNation. "I was told that I could go anywhere from the third round to maybe being undrafted. I just had to sit there and wait for the phone call."

When the phone finally rang with a "904" area code, a sense of relief came over the young pass rusher.

"It was the happiest moment of my life," Hart said. "I just told them I was going to work as hard as I can."

Now that minicamps and OTA's are over for Hart and the team, it's time for him to get the business end worked out.

"Last week I was at the Rookie Symposium and they just said that if you work hard and do your job, the money will take care of itself," Hart explained. "So I'm going to just do that."

As far as the negotiations with his agent and the Jaguars, Hart claims that they're close.

"My agent told me that it should be done by next week."

The Jaguars have gone the route of the undersized defensive end/ designated pass rusher before as they selected Jorge Cordova, Brent Hawkins and Brian Smith. The trio combined for 5.5 sacks (all by Hawkins) in their Jacksonville careers in 35 games, with Brian Smith never playing a down. Larry Hart believes that this time the team will have different results.

"I'm relentless," Hart said. "People have always been underestimating me my whole life and I've been proving them wrong."

The upside comparison of Hart is a guy who Jacksonville Jaguars fans are very familiar with in Dwight Freeney, who is a five-time Pro Bowler. Both are undersized and lightning quick. A better comparison may be Freeney's opposite bookend Robert Mathis. Mathis, like Hart was a fifth-round draft pick (2003) from little Alabama A & M. Mathis has turned his late-round draft status and SWAC pedigree into a pair of Pro Bowl selections and he and Freeney make up the best pass rushing duo in the NFL.

"Those guys (Freeney and Mathis) are what I pattern my game after," Hart said. "I love the way they play and I believe that I can do some of those same things."

Predictably, there wasn't much fanfare around the Larry Hart selection, as one could imagine from a guy who played two seasons at Central Arkansas. If Hart can play to the level that he expects to, this will be a draft pick that Jaguars fans treasure for years to come.


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